Beer houses first came into being with the Beer Act of 1830. The late 18th century had been a time of great social reform and the old-fashioned alehouse was going out of fashion, replaced by purpose-built houses for retailing wines, spirits and beer. These tended to be large properties with numerous rooms for the differing echelons of society, which became known as public houses.
The popularity of gin had also driven the growth of drinking establishments during the 18th century. A combination of high duties on imported spirits coupled with a relaxing of the laws regarding setting up domestic distilleries led to a huge number of small businesses starting up. The gin produced was cheap and thus very popular with the poor, bringing with it many social problems. Previously the peoples’ drink had been beer, which although alcoholic, had been a staple of their diet, providing nutrition and, in the 18th century, being safer to drink than water
The early 19th century temperance movement was focused on the consumption of spirits, particularly gin, while beer was still regarded as a healthy nutritional drink. The temperance movement sought moderation, not abstinence, and beer was viewed as the lesser evil.
Responding to increasing dissatisfaction regarding the 200 year old licensing laws, Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, pushed through the Beer Act of 1830. The Act, intended to curb the rise of gin consumption, abolished all duty on beer and allowed any householder or ratepayer, on payment of two guineas to the Excise, to sell beer and cider from their property. There was a rush for the new licence, not only from prospective publicans but also shopkeepers and traders. The result was that beer could be sold legally in thousands of new locations. Within six years there were 46,000 beer houses across the country.
Beer production increased dramatically and the larger brewers engaged travelling salesmen to find new trading locations. These agents actively encouraged householders to open up a part of their property, usually the front parlour, in order to sell beer. They would even offer to pay the two guinea licence on the householder’s behalf and would offer credit terms to their clients.
Many beer houses were eradicated under later legislation, although some survived and evolved into fully licensed premises, allowed to sell wines and spirits in addition to beer and cider. After the 1869 Wine and Beerhouse Act, which was designed to reduce the number of pubs opening, it become harder to obtain a full licence, although pubs that had obtained licences before this date did have a degree of protection in terms of magisterial control.
In fact, many houses that did not obtain a full licence still managed to continue in business simply sell beer and cider, providing that the establishment conformed to all legislation and was kept orderly. In the 1950’s, those beer houses that had survived were finally granted a full licence.
In East Barkwith, the two main drinking establishments were The Cross Roads Inn on the main road and The Waggon and Horses in Torrington Lane. In addition, for a short time there was a beer house in West Barkwith near what is now Star Garage, and there may have been another beer house in East Barkwith on the Willingham Road.
The Cross Roads Inn , which it is believed was originally called The Greyhound (the emblem of the nearby Heneage estate), seems to have operated as a beer house initially, before gaining a full license and becoming a public house, perhaps around 1860. The Waggon and Horses appears to have remained as a beer house for many more years, and it is not currently known when or if it ever gained a full license.
It is fair to assume that certainly during the 19th century The Cross Roads Inn would have been the more upmarket establishment, catering to travellers, business people and perhaps the local land owners, while The Waggon and Horses and other beer houses would have served the many thirsty agricultural workers.
The Waggon and Horses closed its doors for the final time around 1950 and a private residence now occupies the plot, however The Cross Roads Inn has, except for a few short periods, remained open, continuing to serve both the local community and passing travellers.
William Clipsham was baptised in West Barkwith on 18th October 1812, the son of Richard and Mary Clipsham. He had an elder sister, named Rebecca (b. 1806-8), two elder brothers, named Richard (b.1804) and Joseph (b. 1810), and two younger sisters, named Harriot (b.1815) and Eliza (b.1819).
In 1842, White’s History, Gazetteer & Directory of Lincolnshire, recorded that William was running a beer house in West Barkwith (believed to be near where Star Garage now is), possibly with his father Richard, although the 1841 census doesn’t show any evidence of this.
By the time of the 1851 census, William had moved away and married Mary Ann, from Westminster, Middlesex. In 1861 they were living in Hampshire, where William was working as a contractor’s agent. Ten years later they were in Greenwich, with William still a contractor’s agent.
Richard was born around 1781. In 1841, he was 60, married to Sarah and living in East Barkwith. According to White’s History, Gazetteer & Directory of Lincolnshire, he was running a Beer House at this time, although we don’t know whereabouts in the village this was. It’s possible that this could be the first record of The Waggon and Horses but nothing has yet been found to prove this link, and just as likely this could have been the front room of another property in the village as beer houses were fairly informal in those days. There is said to have been a beer house in Willingham Road, East Barkwith, but no records have yet been found to confirm this.
Richard died in East Barkwith and was buried on the 24th April 1846.
Elijah Brackenbury who ran a shop in East Barkwith for many years, also appears in some directories as a beer retailer, indicating that the shop served as an off-license as far back as 1909.
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